A classically trained chef, Han created her own internship, Thirdspace, to increase accessibility to food education for students, remove barriers to eating locally on campus, and build community! Thirdspace hosts both small group dinners and culinary skills workshops each term.
Where you are from? What lead you to Dartmouth?
I grew up in a town north of Boston called Wilmington, MA but moved to Andover, MA when I started high school. The simplest answer that I could give would be: loving alumnus parents, a top-tier high school education and many privileges lead me to Dartmouth.
A more personal answer would be: Dartmouth had always played a role in my family dynamic, as a unit we would visit friends who lived in the Upper Valley area once a year or so and would take time to walk through campus. When it came time to decide where I wanted to go to college, I was looking for a place that was close to home but not too close, large enough to explore but not become overwhelmed, and that had proximity to nature. Also the idea of studying engineering at a non-technical school was really important to me.
What are your academic interests?
If I had to choose, the main two interests would be: Studying engineering sciences to better understand the theories and practices of the modern world. I also have an academic passion for food, and how as a subject it can describe so many aspects about ourselves in interaction with our environments.
If I am being honest I find all things interesting… and would study them all if I could.
Describe your involvement in sustainability on campus.
On campus I work for the Sustainability Office. I created my own internship which uses food to educate/convey ideas about sustainability and create community. In short, I cook a lot but in ways that are not commonly seen or known by most college kids including fermentation and using whole animals and foraged foods. I also talk about fine dining and privileges associated with eating local, and I am trying to develop ways to remove some of the barriers associated with eating locally and cooking on campus as a student.
How do you spend your time outside of classes?
Outside of classes I like to ski, read, play ice hockey (was on the club team but no longer have time for it!) hike, have long conversations with friends, watch films and play music.
Why is sustainability important to you? How do you incorporate sustainability in daily life?
Sustainability is important to me because I see climate change and environmental pollution as both a human rights disaster and an opportunity to unite and make lasting positive changes. I exist at Dartmouth and in my life outside Dartmouth keeping sustainability in mind. I am always working on how to reduce personal waste/impacts. I also am constantly learning/reading about the ways sustainability as an idea must be better and must center the voices of the marginalized to make any equitable positive impacts.
Can you reflect on your experience creating “Thirdspace” through the Sustainability Office?
I have been thinking about food for a while, since high school really. I would read about food in whatever way I could, and when I was around seventeen came to the personal conclusion that this was something I wanted to devote my life to. Not because I really could understand it all then, but because I knew that in a lifetime I couldn’t. That I would never be bored, and that to study this subject meant having knowledge in all fields think bio, chem, geography, anthropology, art history - and that it was something (unlike most academia) that is easily comprehensible, charismatic and personal. It seemed like following food was the easiest way to to start to understand myself and relate to others.
I think in many ways my experiences at a similarly challenging academic high school prepared me to navigate Dartmouth’s resources. Both in an academic sense and a personal sense - I was so excited to meet professors and faculty that I immediately took some time to go through the directories and I emailed anyone I could find whose interests in food aligned with mine. I chose to live where I am living because when I walked into the kitchen I realized it was the perfect size and shape to host dinner parties, the gears began to turn when I was seventeen.
When I worked in my first restaurant right out of high school full time, I had a lot of time to myself to think. My body was constantly in motion, chopping, stirring, running around but for the first time I could really focus, and I started to think about what are the skills that have been lost, or outsourced. Why are we using the proteins that we are using, why do all restaurants use the same proteins? Where are the scallions I am cutting coming from, what does it mean to have a pantry stocked with ingredients from all over the world? What does it mean to work in a restaurant that brings together people from all walks of life, and cook together? What does it mean to serve and be served? I had a year to think and journal about these things. I did constantly, and I was inspired. When I started to think about carbon, other greenhouse gases and colonialism and industrialization, I felt so deeply that we were doing food wrong. I wanted to try and synthesize what it would mean to do food right.
At an institution that intentionally crafts a pool of bright, global people I thought it would be the best thing to share with my peers all that I know about food’s complexities over food, and to learn all the ways everyone else that I speak to thinks about food. That way instead of me throwing a bunch of words together or having a campaign or discussions/workshops, people could really digest what it meant to me, to themselves, and to everyone else at the table.
In high school I was one of few people who cooked but constantly would talk to people who missed cooking or wanted to learn how to cook. I knew that college would be the same and I wanted to empower students with the knowledge of how to cook as well. That way, as adults living our lives outside of college, maybe we would be able to make smarter more sustainable food choices - one of the few things that an individual can control.
With all this, the most challenging thing is managing my time, classes, friends and passions! I am still working on being personally sustainable.